Me and My Yashica – part 1

Me and My Yashica – part 1

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Casper's Yashica

Introduction

Theres been a lot of talk and banter on our G+ community page regarding film over digital. Street Hunters are quite divided on the subject; digital is the lazy art of photography, and analogue some weird ju ju akin to Alchemy or digital shooters are the jedi masters of speed and agility and film buffs doddery relics of a golden age.

I shoot digital, although as an artist I believe having a fixed position, especially when in the early stages of your training is restricting. So with that in mind, a  few weeks ago I happened to be browsing through E-Bay and stumbled upon a Yashica Electro 35. £9 plus £6.15 p+p.( please use a currency converter – in short the camera was being sold for less than four pints of lager) In the description the owner had written ‘ This was my grandfathers, I think it still works.’ As a sucker for the sentimental I was now riven with E-Bay fever. Click, and after 17hrs of waiting, the e-mail arrived! I was now the owner of the Yashica. It arrived 6 days later, and these are my thoughts.

Me and My Yashica

HOW HEAVY! At just short of 700g the Yashica is cumbersome. A brick. But hidden away in the slightly battered original case was a gleaming near perfect condition camera with dials,knobs and numbers beautifully machined and balanced making a great looking camera. There was even that tiny mechanical thud as I turned the aperture ring as it slotted into it’s next setting.

Does it work? It certainly clicked, dials turned, the lever felt solid but the battery check didn’t light up. At this point I wasn’t too disappointed and after a little research I realised the mercury battery which used to be housed inside was no longer available, so I ordered a 6v Alkaline battery. When it arrived I slipped it in and …and….and nothing. Now I was disappointed. Never one to give up too easily I shambled across to my local photography shop and thrust the camera into the hands of a member of staff.

‘Does this work?’ and after a good 7 minutes he handed it back,

‘I don’t know.’

The assistant had as much idea as I did about turning the camera on. In the short years of camera development and the switch to digital the language of analogue has been lost. It seemed my venturing into film had been unsuccessful. When it comes to useless things I am fairly callous in their disposal so whilst dangling the camera over a public litter bin I was struck by a single thought. ‘Did you put the battery in the right way round prat!’

Hurriedly I unscrewed the the camera from it’s case, fumbled for a coin to get into the battery housing, urged the battery out and flipped it round.

NO WAY! YESSSS WAY! – My Yashica was alive! I pushed the shutter button and the little red ‘over’ light flashed , I rolled a dial and now the yellow ‘slow’ light glowed it’s eerie welcome to analogue. I returned immediately to the shop and invested in a single roll of 400 asa film for £7.99 , a whopping 22p per each of the 36 frames but essential to check whether the camera had any light leaks. Alas it was fairly dull that day and so I decided to wait until there was at least some sunshine to shoot off the roll.

In doing so I found out a couple of things.

  • Expensive film makes you take your time.
  • People don’t appear to mind a camera which looks like a camera being pointed at them
  • Fixed settings make for an easier time

I tried similar shots I would take with my digital and in no time at all the lever arm locked and I was done.

Another trip to the camera shop and I handed over the film….another £7.99 but worse, this £7.99 came with a 3, yes 3 week wait to have just the negatives developed.

I wait with baited breath.

Conclusion

The Yashica is a beautiful thing/machine, robust and elegant in equal handfuls and for a newbie in the field of film it seems logical and easy to use. Although I have no proof of it yet, there is a certain amount of pleasure in knowing it has one job,and one job alone : to take images. It isn’t a tool to which can text your long lost sister in the other corner of the world, it doesn’t help you create photobooks, and it certainly hasn’t endless menus and styles and setting to fidget with.This simplicity, whether I use the facilities or not on a digital, seemed to free me up, and slow me down which are good things although it did feel like I was wearing a blindfold to a battle.

Part 2

A tearful reunion with my negatives?

13 COMMENTS

  1. A very enjoyable read Casper,I am looking forward to Part 2.

    The waiting and the almost blind faith we put in our photographic skills when working with film are a thrill in themselves. It only seems like yesterday for me that this was the norm, now in the a blink of an eye we demand results from the machines. Some of the joy is lost for the convenience. I am no Luddite and previously gave up on photography for many years due to the cost and too many crushing disappointments returning to me in a Prontoprint envelope, and Digital dragged me back to a pastime that I derive immense pleasure from. But revisiting film in the last couple of months has brought back some of that thrill I thought i had lost many years ago. I hope you get enough back from the process to make you want to continue on this path, there is room for both mediums in my humble opinion, and the more people who hang onto film, the less likely it will die.

    • I have still to see whether the medium stands the kind of bashing I tried to give it, and I do harp on abouot the expense, which is ostensibly the winning issue. We can forgo a little quality, feel, excitement if it doesn’t cost too much, but I did have to buy a computer to see my digital images 🙂 And certainly room for both although it always feels like ‘book or kindle’ discussion to me.Thanks for reading Sam, and you’ll be sure to here or Part 2 : The Negative Story !

    • I thought the image of the Yashica from my fuji x20 was a bit of a Masterpiece Klaus, but we shall have to see from the negatives!!

  2. I purchased a Yashica Electro 35 GSN a couple months back. My experience is similar in many ways.

    I’ve always used SLRs or DSLRs, so using a rangefinder was new for me—I’m hooked. After buying a battery adapter, I shot a roll of Tri-X with no issues, with some great results. Halfway through a second roll—Kodak Ultracolor 100 this time—the meter stopped working. Now I’m stuck, as these cameras do not have the option to manually control shutter speeds. I was left to finish the roll at the default shutter speed of 1/500. That roll is out for processing now, and I’ll have to work on fixing the camera this summer.

    My experience about interacting with people while using this camera is also similar to yours. People enjoy it, and are generally not afraid of it (which I cannot say about my SLRs and DSLRs). Here’s an example: http://flickr.com/photos/spatialrhetorics/14027168227/

    Finally, I love shooting a rangefinder so much that I am now on the hunt for an Olympus 35 SP (similar to the Yashica in several ways, with better optics and a fully manual mode). I also covet a Fujifilm X100s!

    • Nice Shot Brian! I’m fairly brutal when it comes to camera handling, always thinking it’s a tool not a toy, but I suspect to get the best out of the Yashica I might have to tone it down a bit. It also feels built to be held unlike the tiny digitals which ,to me, are built to fit with your hand. We shall see. Thanks for reading!

    • Too bad. Sounds like your camera suffers from POD aka Pad of Death. There’s online sites to tell you how to fix it yourself. One thing…they have a great, bright lens and very sharp. Good luck with it.

      • I’m suspecting the shutter blades are stuck Tony, so am on the look out for a wee tool which will allow me access to them via the lens barrel.Stay tuned for episode two for the saga into film 🙂

    • Hi Chris and thanks for you commenting. I have 3 Yashica Electros. A CC, an MG-1 and a GTN. All three of them arrived in perfect working order and two of them are spotless. I am very happy with my purchase. I have heard of others having issues with the Yashis, but the common thing those people had, was that they had paid under 10EURO for their purchases. I paid a little more for my cameras, but they are great! I hope your 3 one is in working order so you can have some fun! There is nothing better than a Yashica Electro 35 for fun Street shooting!

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